Positioned in the Pacific, 240 nautical miles off the southwest coast of Baja you can find a magical place like no other: the Revillagigedo Archipelago, also known as the Socorro Islands. This protected group of four volcanic islands (Socorro, San Benedicto, Roca Partida & Clarión) is home to some of the most amazing pelagic species, such as giant oceanic mantas and different kinds of sharks. How,To,how-to,Shoot,Giant,Mantas,manta,rays,underwater,photo,photography,in,Socorro,islands,Manta,Underwater,Photo,Tips,For,Socorro

Manta Underwater Photo Tips For Socorro

by David SerradellTIPS FROM OUR BACKSCATTER AUTHORIZED PHOTO CENTER - NAUTILUS, CABO MEXICO My name is David Serradell and I am the Backscatter Authorized Photo Pro working on Nautilus Liveaboards in Baja California Sur. SeeCreatures, the Nautilus Dive Center located in Cabo, is an Authorized Backscatter Photo Center where our Backscatter trained staff will meet you before each trip to Socorro. You will find a fully stocked photography shop where we can provide you with any gear that you may need for the trip, as well as any gear available to rent for the time you will be onboard. We also offer 1-on-1 photography workshops not only at the shop but also onboard, providing you with personalized coaching during the whole trip. If you are an underwater photographer, I hope you will enjoy this guide about how to photograph the beautiful mantas of Socorro. Personally, having the chance to visit these incredible islands regularly brings me the amazing opportunity to keep learning from these creatures and improve my photography. This is the perfect place to perfect your wide angle photography with great water conditions, good visibility, and large photogenic pelagic animals. Positioned in the Pacific, 240 nautical miles off the southwest coast of Baja you can find a magical place like no other: the Revillagigedo Archipelago, also known as the Socorro Islands. This protected group of four volcanic islands (Socorro, San Benedicto, Roca Partida & Clarión) is home to some of the most amazing pelagic species, such as giant oceanic mantas and different kinds of sharks. Left: A silvertip shark cruising around the cleaning station of El Cañón in San Benedicto IslandCanon 5D IV | Sigma 15mm | 1/200 | ISO 320 | ƒ10Right: A Chevron manta ray swimming by next to El Boiler in San Benedicto IslandCanon 5D IV | Sigma 15mm | 1/200 | ISO 320 | ƒ10 Oceanic manta rays getting cleaned by Clarion angelfish, wild bottlenose dolphins visiting closely with divers, silvertip sharks, whitetip reef sharks, scalloped hammerheads, Galapagos sharks and others cruising around the cleaning stations are the most common species you will see when diving in these waters. You can get lucky by having encounters with big pregnant female whale sharks, pods of false killer whales and even humpback whales while underwater. Among all these fascinating species there is one that most underwater photographers have in mind when thinking about Socorro: the giant oceanic manta ray (Mobula birostris). Few subjects anywhere in the world have such a large, graceful, and dramatic presence. They also happen to be quite cooperative photo subjects, often enjoying the bubble-massage that divers may provide with each exhale. For these reasons and more they have become the most iconic subject of shots captured in the Revillagigedo Archipelago. These are my favorite tips for capturing classic shots of these majestic creatures. The Socorro angels are very curious animals that will bring you incredible encounters and great opportunities to take beautiful shots underwater. There is no better place to have these interactions than the Revillagigedo Archipelago. Canon 5D IV | Sigma 15mm | 1/200 | ISO 200 | ƒ10Don’t chase them, let them come to you Be patient and let the manta interact with you. If you chase them they will probably swim away. You will be much more likely to get a better shot by waiting for the manta to check on every diver in the group until it’s your turn. Get a little distance from the group of divers and position yourself correctly to avoid bubbles or undesired divers in your frame. When you see the manta approaching you, be sure that all of your settings are ready, move into position, and shoot when they come in for an overhead pass. I like to first position myself at the same level of the manta and then let the animal swim slightly above me. Being patient at the time of shooting these animals is the key if you want them to get very close to you. Read their moves and have everything ready to take the perfect shot home.Canon 5D IV | Sigma 15mm | 1/160 | ISO 400 | ƒ9Be ready before the action Get your camera set and ready before the action starts. You don’t want to miss the perfect moment when a 20-foot wide manta ray glides by while trying to adjust your exposure settings and strobe position at the last minute. Keep these things in mind as you are anticipating the scene: A. Where do you want the Sun? If you’re going for a sunball, silhouette, or backlit manta, then keep the manta between you and the sun. If you want just the manta in the frame, then keep the sun at your back. It is important to keep this in mind because your settings and strobe power will change considerably. B. ƒ8 for corner sharpness and depth of field I generally start with an aperture of ƒ8. When shooting with a fisheye lens we will need an aperture of at least ƒ8 to guarantee that the wide angle image distortion doesn’t affect sharpness and detail in the corners of our frame. You also want to have enough depth of field to have an infinite focal plane when focused at 1-meter distance, and with most fisheye lenses this can be achieved with ƒ8. C. Fast shutter speed to freeze motion blur The shutter speed must be set fast in order to avoid motion blur when the manta is on the move. This is going to require us to be shooting at least 1/160, with the option to go as fast as our maximum strobe sync speed (typically 1/250). D. Perfect blue background with ISO Ideally, it is always best to shoot at the lowest ISO value possible because of the noise and image quality loss that occurs at higher ISO values. Set your ISO to 200, but don’t be afraid to walk it up one stop at a time if the background exposure is too dark. Take it up one incrementally until your background is a deep-but-not-too-dark blue. ISO than any other exposure value is based on ambient light conditions and the brightness at that moment, so be ready to increase ISO a few stops if your bright sunny day turns suddenly overcast. If your picture is still too bright at a lower ISO, then consider a faster shutter speed or smaller aperture (increase your F-Stop). E. Strobes set to ¼ power Position your strobes correctly (see diagram below) and start from quarter power. You can practice with your dive buddy as if they were a manta to check how bright or dark your foreground is looking. From there, decrease/increase your strobe power, re-check and if all looks good, you are ready to have that perfect manta shot. A good technique when shooting against light with the subject between you and the sun, is to put up your shutter speed as much as you can, set the ISO to the minimum and increase the strobe power to the maximum.Canon 5D IV | Sigma 15mm | 1/200 | ISO 100 | ƒ9Shoot with your widest lens Any camera can achieve great results, but I would always recommend you go as wide as you can with your lenses. Mantas and some sharks may get extremely close to you, giving a good opportunity to use your fisheye lens. On cropped sensors, the Tokina 10-17mm is an ideal choice for both it’s fisheye field of view and zoom range. For full-frame cameras, the Nikon 8-15mm and Canon 8-15mm Fisheye will give you incredible sharpness on the corners and top-of-the-line optical quality. The Sigma 15mm Fisheye is also a great lens for full-frame cameras at a more economic price. I am currently shooting with a Canon 5D IV with a Sigma 15mm ƒ2.8 lens on an Isotta 5D IV Housing with a Sea and Sea 240mm Dome port and two Sea & SeaYS-D2J strobes. If you have a compact camera with only a fixed lens, I would strongly recommend you add an external wide-angle conversion lens to your housing to make your shots look more spectacular. Without this wide angle lens, you will find it impossible to fit a large manta into the frame while still getting close enough for the proper color, contrast, and clarity and strobes to hit the subject. To find the best wide angle lens for your compact camera consult The Best Underwater Lenses for Compact Cameras Guide.I captured this trio of bottlenose dolphins just before dawn with an Olympus TG-6 and Backscatter M52 Wide Angle Lens. It’s amazing how great even a point-and-shoot camera can perform when equipped with the right lens for the task at hand.Olympus TG-6 | Backscatter M52 Wide Angle Lens | 1/200 | ISO 400 | ƒ8Balancing strobe power and shooting speed The more light, the better… always. It will bring out the details and the true colors of your subject. Shooting with strobes will also help you to freeze motion on a moving subject. When shooting mantas and other big pelagic animals, I always work with 2 strobes and follow 3 rules every time I position my strobes: 1. Keep your strobes above the middle line of the lens. It simulates the natural light from the sun coming from above. If you keep your strobes too low, most of the light will be gathered on the lowest part of your frame creating an unnatural look. 2. Keep your strobes behind the dome port to avoid seeing glare on the edges of your frame. This also gives less probability of having too much backscatter reflected in your shot. 3. Keep your strobes facing slightly angled outwards. The goal is to use the edge of the cone of light of each strobe to light the subject and avoid lighting the water in between your lens and the subject, which is the number one cause of too much backscatter. There is always 3 things I look into my pictures when taking a photo of any subject: exposure, composition and focus. We have already talked about achieving the perfect exposure when shooting these animals so let’s talk about composition and focus. Composition The first thing my eye analyzes when looking at a picture is composition. Unless you want to go for a shark or manta portrait where you only want the eye or the cephalic fins of a manta in the frame, try not to cut any part of the animal off and let them occupy the whole frame. This will always yield a better ‘keeper’ image than one where a fin tip or tail is cropped and cut off. Focus There is no way you can correct focus in post-processing, so we must make sure we nail the focus in-camera. I always set my camera to continuous focusing (AI Servo mode for Canon users) and use center AF single point. I also set the focus function to the AF-On button on back, and leave the shutter button just to shoot. When I see the manta coming, I press the back button focus to start focusing on the manta. The continuous focusing will allow us to have the manta sharp and in focus for the whole time as long as we keep part of the subject inside the center focus point. When the manta gets close enough to me, while still holding down the back button focus to keep tracking, I start shooting until it has moved out of position. I personally prefer to shoot with the center AF single point because I can be 100% sure that no matter what, what is inside the central point will be in focus as long as I'm holding the back button focus. By using continuous autofocus I was able to set my focus point on the eye of the silky shark and let the camera track that through the frame. Canon 5D IV | Sigma 15mm | 1/200 | ISO 400 | ƒ10Conclusion: The Revillagigedo Archipelago is one of the most beautiful places on Earth to dive and take incredible images of the creatures that inhabit it. The mantas will dance with you and will be the perfect models for your pictures. Be sure you have your rig ready to shoot before the action starts. Think about where you want the sun in your frame, and from there start adjusting your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. A good start would be setting the aperture to ƒ8, 1/160 shutter speed and 200 ISO. Then, it’s time for you to position your strobes correctly and make a couple of test shots to adjust the power of your strobes. Important, keep your strobes up, behind the dome port and slightly facing outwards to avoid having backscatter on your images. When everything is ready, let the manta come close to you, position yourself correctly and shoot. And never forget to enjoy the experience while diving with these amazing animals! About the author With an eternal love for the sea and all its creatures, David grew up in Barcelona next to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where he spent more hours underwater than on the surface. He practiced as a veterinarian in Spain while being in the water as much as he could but soon moved to Baja California Sur, Mexico to follow his dream, working on conserving the ocean and capturing it with his camera. It was here that he further explored the path of underwater photography and videography. You can find David working to use his photos and videos to further promote the messages of marine conservation to protect the oceans that give life to us all. He is an authorized Backscatter Photo Pro at Nautilus Liveaboards working in Socorro, Guadalupe and the Sea of Cortez. Related PostsFrogfish Underwater Photo Tips For Lembeh Lembeh Resort is a luxurious boutique resort situated in a private cove on Lembeh Island. Within the resort you will find the Authorized Backscatter Photo Centre where our Backscatter trained staff wi... Read More Free Live Q&A Seminars Join Backcatter’s Robin Dodd and Special Guests as they detail what it takes to capture spectacular underwater images. We will use a series of photos to dive into all aspects of underwater photography... 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